on the beaming recommendation of a friend, i saw this film today. sorry to those of you who wanted to come to kc and see it with friends--this was a date with my mom. i wouldn't be opposed to seeing it again though, and if you see it in any manner i recommend seeing it at the tivoli.
i won't praise it anymore on the outset or encourage you to see it--john's should be sufficient. but it certainly left me with a few thoughts i wanted to share. warning: spoilers to follow.
this movie was beautifully done in many respects, but i want to focus on the story. to call it shakespearean would not be unfounded--in characters as well as story. it's epic, telling coming-of-age stories of two characters (jamal and salim--my favorite character in complexity), divided into specific chapters. but there is decidedly one way that it is not shakespearean: it is not a comedy nor is it a tragedy.
as the end was approaching, i found myself wondering what was going to happen. it certainly was not predictable. would he get the final question right? would he win a million dollars? i suppose the title could have given it away--but then it also could have been a metaphor, making a point about what makes someone truly rich. the question came up, he didn't know the answer. i thought he would miss it, but really not care. he wasn't so interested in money. in would be a tragedy of sorts, but lesson learned and moral point made. jamal would still be plenty happy. but then i remembered, this is an indian film i am watching (sort-of).
not to over-generalize, but from what i've heard of a lot of indian movies, especially those from bollywood, there is a mass appeal toward happier, almost quaint stories. i'm sure this is a gross assumption and drastically uninformed--but let's just assume that i have some sort of point here. and that point is that there is a cultural difference in what people want to see in their movies. people in india want to see a happy ending; people in america want to see tragedy (again, forgive the generalizations).
i don't know enough about indian culture or many other cultures to know what it is about the west that values tradegy more than others--but it does. my fiction writing professor said, we have to write about bad stuff, because bad stuff is interesting. people don't want happy stories, largely because their lives aren't happy. that may be his own generalization, but he for sure has a point. there is truth in that. and if things are going to end well for someone, they better well have earned it throughout the story with enough suffering and pain to pay for it. that is the general rule.
let's look at the films that won best picture since 1990. 13(+/-1) out of the last 18 winners are tragedies, including the last 4. there is something we love, and find particularly profound, in a great tragedy. is it really because we aren't happy in our own lives and so we don't want to see it for others? are we that self-centered that another's happiness doesn't bring us joy? no, that's not it. or is it more that we don't want to see it in a fictional story because we have experienced enough disappointment in our lives to kill our belief that happy endings are in any way realistic? "fairy tale" pretty much is a synonym for "make-believe."
now jamal had his fair share of tragedy, and in that sense for the audience perhaps he "earned" his success. that makes it work for westerners. but he was no genius. and the theme of the movie is not that he earned it at all. he received it because it was his destiny--it was written. do we believe in a good destiny being written for us? if we believe in destiny at all. and yet, jamal only got anywhere close to as far as he did because of the devious actions of his brother salim--which were both a curse and a blessing for jamal.
do we see the tragedy too much? have we lost our belief that life can really be a fairy tale? is that a good loss? a loss of naivety, or a loss of innocence? do we find hope in a story like this? or do we distance ourself from it with the thought--nothing like that would ever happen to me. tragedy is more "real," that's why we resonate with it. is it though?
hooray chargers. just too hilarious--courtesy of the chiefs gift two weeks ago and buffalo coming back after being down 13 to beat denver last week. the utter ineptitude of the broncos, specifically their defense, makes me smile. too funny.
and the chiefs are finally done with their miserable season. they looked horrible today. it was clear that the coaching staff took most of christmas week off more or less--they probably figured they were all going to be fired anyway. gailey might be around, herm too i suppose. but gunther is long gone. i can pretty much guarantee that. with a 2-14 record that puts the chiefs tied for the 2nd-worst record in football, tied with their missouri counter-parts the rams. i don't know if they'll get the 2nd or 3rd pick. anyone know the tiebreaker there? the rams' victories are against teams with better records than the chiefs' wins, and i'm guessing because of the terrible afc west the total record of all their opponents is better than the chiefs' as well. but both of the chiefs' wins were in their division--does that make a difference? either way it doesn't matter, because the rams don't need a qb--and even if you like tyler thigpen, the chiefs would be foolish to use such a high pick on anyone but a quarterback, specifically sam bradford if he's there. that would be great--he wouldn't have to come in and start right away; he could have time to develop and create a good competition at the qb spot, with croyle at 3rd string. not too shabby.
christmas rundown: i ate a whole ton of sugar cookies, and even more after a somewhat less than perfect attempt at baking my own. they eventually were great, but the first few batches just didn't work out super well. who knew you had to grease the pan? actually fyi parchment paper is a good friend of sugar cookies in ovens. and i've had lots of pumpkin pie, and all sorts of other really good food. cause that is what christmas is all about right? food? actually i think that sense of celebration is great to go on and on for days. that's the way it should be. i just dread the overcrowded gym after new-year's resolutions.
a quick word about that as well: i'm not sure what i think about new year's resolutions, or most goals for that matter. why should the changing of a number on a calendar spur people on to new things? shouldn't we be constantly seeking to improve our life? i suppose it isn't a bad thing--but if all that is motivating you is a different number on the end of your dates, then i just think it's doomed to failure. evidence: work-out centers in mid-february. do it for something more. i say let's have epiphany resolutions. how about that?
another christmas come and gone--my 25th on this dear earth. it's my favorite season, and always somehow one of significance for me in whatever respect. and i always experience some sort of "fall out," or just a distinct change from the season immediately following christmas day. it's like christmas evening rolls around, everyone is exhausted, presents have been opened and food consumed. and the traditions are past and it's always kind of like, well what now? i suppose epiphany is in a couple weeks.
hopefully presents and presence have brought you some joy, however long those things are a comfort. hopefully there has been some sort of representation of the symbolic spiritual arrival of this day. but still it seems like things don't really feel like they are all that different. i am glad to have spent time with family, i am grateful for the presents received, i enjoyed the music, the food, the festivities, but nothing is really different in me. has Christ come in new arrival in my life today? but did i make my journey to bethlehem?
maybe it has to do with all "holidays." maybe my sense of celebration isn't super great. i think sometimes though i just get frustrated celebrating symbolism. i want to celebrate reality. i want to know the new coming of Christ--in other people's lives as much if not more than my own. is the arrival of Christ about a tradition of the past or a new reality of the future for many and all? do we need to say with sufjan "get behind me santa!"? is "christmas" for all it is getting in the way of all that christmas could be?
---- these thoughts seem almost a little ridiculous to me actually though--like, come on, just enjoy the day and not take everything so seriously. and that's when this weight usually puts me to sleep. not from boredom, but burden, bearing alone and into the deep, further away, as uninviting as it is open.
Heaven is even now mirrored in created things. All God's creatures invite us to forget our vain cares and enter into out own hearts, which God Himself has made to be His paradise and our own. If we have God dwelling within us, making our souls His paradise, then the world around us can also become for us what it was meant to be for Adam--his paradise. But if we seek paradise outside ourselves, we cannot have paradise in our hearts. If we have no peace within ourselves, we have no peace with what is all around us. Only the man who is free from attachment finds that creatures have become his friends. As long as he is attached to them, they speak to him only of his own desires. Or they remind him of his sins. When he is selfish, they serve his selfishness. When he is pure, they speak to him of God.
If we are not grateful to God, we cannot taste the joy of finding Him in His creation. To be ungrateful is to admit that we do not know Him, and that we love his creatures not for His sake but for our own. Unless we are grateful for our own existence, we do not know who we are, and we have not yet discovered what it really means to be and to live. No matter how high an estimate we may have of our own goodness, that estimate is too low unless we realize that all we have comes to us from God.
The only value of our life is that it is a gift of God.
Gratitude shows reverence to God in the way it makes use of His gifts.
ok so the chiefs had another debacle. another second-half disappearing act and a weak defense. but right now none of that matters. oh i am so happy that denver lost to stinking buffalo. and san diego beat tampa bay. that sets up san diego to play denver at home this week, winner makes the playoffs. it is just too hilarious that the chief's early christmas present to the chargers last week might mean so much. absolutely love it. go chargers!
with both hands i hold out-- er, hold it out i mean; hold it out. i see a bland backing, a muffled sight. on your end: a window-- well, no not really that at all. more like a mirror, yeah like that. no but not a mirror in which you see yourself, probably closer to a glare in your eyes.
the thing is, no one's really looking that hard. it's a sort of overkill-- actually more defensive though, like a castle i saw once in switzerland where the walls rose off rock to a hundred feet high, but just on one side, while the back had a gradual incline.
ok i've lost you. well and to be honest i think i've lost myself a little bit-- hmm that's pretty profound, like a poem confusing itself, or a life. that or just ridiculous.
you see, i don't want to take things too seriously. while at the same time i can't help but know the gravitas that everyone seems to live as if it doesn't exist. an apple's hit my head from this fourth-dimension force-- of course i'm no newton, it is both nothing new and yet still not really accepted--like death. who wants to be really real?
let's back up a second. i fear i've held you off as well. we can bury ourselves in all sorts of anything, filled by insulation of great generalizations or by empty space hollowed out by shallow living that passes for the deep end. self-contained it is not, and there is no lifeguard on duty.
good thing that everyone can float-- it's makes for a much better survival rate,
but we're not in a pool. we've put out to the vast sea. drifting along, waiting for someone else to float on by. lock arms and hold on, not too tight though--then you'll sink. just hope the wind doesn't blow too strongly. are we guided more by the wind or the subtle current below? heaven forbid we try to steer this little ship, or press forward against the wind. though if we're honest, why bother? we don't really know where we're going anyway, so we read our own stars. navel-gazing and self-projection--er, protection.
this is the healing of my heart. turning the underside over, muffled and bland. but at least one to see. and as i bend my elbows pulling back to my chest, i drop the mirror-- shattering deception and distance. let the cycle begin again, the jagged line back again-- but still, a little bit further. a little bit closer.
i have always been a fan of christmas music--but unfortunately when you say that sometimes people think you like the crap they play 24/7 on the easy listening radio stations. and in turn a lot of people do not like "christmas music" because of said crap. no no. there is good christmas music out there, you just have look for it a little harder. not even that hard. music that isn't commercialized and speaks more to the true heart of christmas. something like "all i want for christmas is you" by mariah carey...uh...oh--mbleh...sorry i threw up a little in my mouth. yeah that's what christmas is all about.
in fact, i find that my favorite christmas songs don't even have any words. sure i love some that have words, as they give such meaning to the season--like "o come o come emmanuel" and "in the bleak midwinter," but perhaps there is something about the spirit of christmas that just goes beyond words. so i find myself listening to a couple songs a lot. here are my two favorites. merry christmas everyone!
~"I love Him--not for what He gives--but for what He takes..." --mother teresa
~i love the snow. i truly do. it gives me something that i cannot explain. i try to by saying that it makes the cold seem less so. and that is probably about the best way to say it.
~i've watched this american life season 1 this week. it's only 6 shows at 1/2 hour each. but each of them were thoroughly interesting. i have really enjoyed the radio show and this is just as good. very well done. i recommend it heartily.
~also, i watched this video and found it very profound. original post here.
i spent a good part of the day at a coffee shop, reading and such. then i got some dinner and headed out to go to a taize service at a local church here, but they weren't having it either because of the ice or because it's the week before christmas. i was the only person waiting in the parking lot for a little while. i was a little disappointed because it's on thursday nights when we normally have ichthus and this would have been one of the rare times i could have gone.
so i drove home through the ice and up our incredibly slippery steps to my door, when then i see on the doorstep TWO PLATES OF DELICIOUS CHRISTMAS SUGAR COOKIES!!!!! amazing! yes, you read correctly--two plates! homemade, excellently decorated with different christmas shapes. and might i say they are really really good. on them was a note written "to: luke, from: :), merry christmas mt sweet-toothed friend!" hold on a sec, i'm eating another one right now...ok now i can type again. i guess my confession is absolved...or something like that. i'm just glad i got them before they froze!
well since i don't know who did it, though i am sure it was a reader of this blog, let me say a very big THANK YOU!!! it completely made my day, and for sure week (or however long the cookies last :)). no really it's the thought even more than the cookies themselves--which is saying A LOT cause you know how much i love those cookies! and i must say, that is some really quick action there--man the same day as the post! kudos! i'm smiling a lot. and thank you again so much.
i have a sweet tooth. yes, it's true. if you know me very well you may have already known that. sure everybody likes their sweets, but certainly some more than others. i blame my dad, who passed on this genetic moler that plagues me many times throughout the day and year. on the day, yeah it's dessert after mealtimes--but that certainly isn't the only time. in speaking in terms of the year, well, hands down christmas season is the worst. what very little self-control i have other times (and that is very little) is just shot to hell because of one specific thing: christmas cookies. now i'm not just talking any kind of christmas cookie. no no. i'm talking about the pure good ole fashion american sugar cookie with icing on top. you think "american" is out of place? well let me tell you that they don't make them like we do over here. as christmas season approached when i was over in europe, i was really excited about the cities' decorations and christmas music and especially the christmas markets. these little collections of stands pop up all over cities across europe, selling little goods and food and such, mostly handmade and local. so fun. i searched every christmas market all over vienna and throughout switzerland and ne'er a christmas cookie could be found. sure there were tins of various collected types of cookies, which i would scour through for even the smallest bit (cause they all are so small) of true sugar cookie. but alas, nothing. needless to say when i got back home a week before christmas i got plenty of my previously elusive christmas cookies.
back when the famous Christmas Party was going, the founders would get together the day of and make an obscene amount of homemade christmas sugar cookies. we would cut them out and bake them and ice them ourselves with homemade icing. it would take forever, but well worth it. now, we also encouraged people to bring food to the party, so most years we would hide our batch of 120+ christmas cookies in a drawer for emergencies--just in case not many people brought food or came. as if that were ever going to happen. so we would have our leftover cookies all to ourselves. this precious secret and devious action was a tradition i have to admit. so i confess my christmas cookie greed. christmas is the time of giving! what was i thinking?!?! i mean, i guess i was thinking that other people came and gave us tons of great food and other cookies, so at least someone was still doing the giving, right?
hey can i be blamed for my sweet tooth? what can i do?
well i've found that rather than trying to gain self-control through abstaining or limiting my sweet tooth, it is better to just find more (semi)healthy options to fill in for dessert. at least healthier than massive amounts of sugar cookies and icing. let's look at a few.
fruit snacks. chazoo! fruit snacks to be exact. i stopped eating them for awhile, mostly because you can only find them at aldi, which is way across town. but i was in the neighborhood not long ago so i picked up a couple boxes. sure they aren't healthy, but they're not as bad for you. right? i tend to feel that way about all fruit-type variety desserts and candy. like mike and ikes, that's another. there is a box by my desk right now, in case i just need a little sugar from time to time. i like to combine two colors for a good flavor taste. in fact, i'm going to have two right now. mmm green and orange. good combo. word of advice: yellow and orange, not good together. never combine red. red gets saved and eaten alone--the taste is just too pure and good. fruit snacks have 100 calories per pouch, and just 1 gram of fat. sure there is the sugar--13g but i have strong teeth. mike and ike's have no fat and 150 calories for 23 pieces. not horrible either, especially as far as "desserts" go.
that's my general strategy, but does that work at christmas at all? sadly no. i am completely powerless before a plate of deliciously decorated christmas cookies, like the one above. mmmm it makes me want one right now!
so is my confession doing me any good? well, all that depends. we'll see how many of you get it in your head to bake some christmas cookies that may or may not mysteriously (or obviously) appear at my door or in my hands! merry christmas!
"God help us to find our confession, The truth within us which is hidden from our mind, The beauty or the ugliness we see elsewhere But never in ourselves; The stowaway which has been smuggled Into the dark side of the heart, Which puts the heart off balance and causes it pain, Which wearies and confuses us, Which tips us in false directions and inclines us to destruction, The load which is not carried squarely Because it is carried in ignorance God help us to find our confession. Help us across the boundary of our understanding. Lead us into the darkness that we may find what lies concealed. That we may confess it towards the light, That we carry our truth in the centre of our heart; That we may carry our cross wisely And bring harmony into our life and our world."
disclaimer: rant to follow. and yes, it's about sports.
ok, ok. that was bad. today was perhaps a new low for the lowly chiefs. how they managed to somehow let that game slip away is beyond me. the offense was completely worthless in the second half, only scoring after going 5 yards following an interception by the slowest corner in the entire league (he got ran down by phillip rivers...really?). the chiefs failed to convert two third-1's in the fourth quarter that would have all but iced it. their offense got so conservative in the second half you couldn't believe they were running half-back passes and hook and ladders earlier. it's not teams figuring out our offense in the second half. it's gailey getting scared when thigpen makes one bad throw that should have been picked and playing conservative for the next 3 series.
you can't put this one on the defense. the numbers look bad but that's just because of the final drives. they played solid all game--really only allowing 10 points until the final minutes. they held LT to 39 yards rushing. they generated three turnovers. they actually even had three sacks! a total that was half of their previous total for the whole season. our secondary looks phenomenal. our linebackers are still not great, but there's only one starter out there anyway. the defensive line actually got consistent pressure. kudos to the defense. oh, and special teams was atrocious.
and yet, we still managed to find a way to lose. if you put your defense out there for the entire second half they can only stop them so many times. i literally thought to myself several times in the fourth quarter--are they trying to lose this game on purpose? like seriously. are they shooting for a better draft pick?
here's the thing about that. let's look at the teams they're "competing" with for higher draft picks: lions--they are going to be ahead of them, guaranteed. ok, so then it's cincinnati, seattle, oakland and st. louis. the latter two played each other today so one of them had to win. thankfully it was seattle. the bengals, raiders and the rams are not going to draft a quarterback. seattle might, as hasselbeck is 33--which isn't all that old for a quarterback and he is good when healthy. the lions do need a quarterback though, so we will get the second best guy available--whether we win the rest of our games or not. in fact, if we win we won't have to pay our pick as much so that would be better for the salary cap. go chiefs! beat miami and cinci!
unless of course you think tyler thigpen is the long-term answer. and he very well could be. that's another debate. either way, it would be great to bring in a younger quarterback under him to compete for the job. that would be great. i would argue it would be the best use of a top-5 pick, in relation to what we need. we don't want to try our hands at another d-lineman do we? free agency please. although that hasn't worked out super well for us either, despite tank tyler's decent game today.
here's the bright shining moment from today though. today will be absolutely more than worth it if denver loses next week to buffalo (at home--a long-shot maybe but it could happen), and san diego can beat tampa on the road (also tough) and then beat denver at home the next week--they will make the playoffs instead of denver, going 8-8. that would be hilarious and awesome, and then i would be really glad the chiefs blew it today. how about that for finding the silver-lining?
POST SCRIPT update (5:08pm): Carl Peterson has resigned! ok, that is the silver-lining.
i'm finding a little more of my christmas spirit of late. maybe it's going to a few christmas parties this last week. the egg nog. the candy canes. the christmas lights going up. the few christmas movies i've watched recently. some good time with old friends and new. yeah it's probably a lot of those things. and it's probably more than that as well.
i feel like i've been kind of hiding a little lately. from myself as much as from others. i am judicious in my revealing, giving enough to seem open but not enough to be vulnerable or perhaps find real support or healing. a part of me believes it is not really wanted. deep are the wounds that must be healed. but we stay away from those--better to be functional and on the more socially acceptable level. which is also called being somewhat detached or independent. it's safer to live this way, boy do i know. but surviving is not living.
i watched love actually the other night. which kind of has something to do with christmas. it's one of my favorites. i like the myriad of stories, all with somewhat different sides of love. sure it maybe stays mostly on one side of the diamond, occasionally showing a little of the other--but the focus is the positive. and it really does matter where you look. you can see the airport reception lines and all the people meeting their loved ones. or you can see the ones walking on through with no one to greet them. only true reality sees them both. love is all around, but so is loss and loneliness and rejection. but there is a time for everything. and this is a christmas movie. and christmas is its own time.
christmastime, or more correctly advent, isn't about the things that you have in your life--the blessings, the gifts, the possessions, the haves. it's about waiting for what you do not yet have, the fulfillment of which comes on christmas, when you are given the one and only thing you really truly desperately need. there is nothing else that holds your life like that which you receive christmas morning, every year--the time of remembrance of the gift you receive within you every moment. and there is nothing in life, no circumstances, no loss, no trouble that can take that away. yes death cannot separate us from the love of God, but just as much neither can life. life and all of its cruelties. it cannot touch christmas. the disappointments of life become the celebration of the greatest fulfillment in this meeting. the losses meet the greatest gain. the loneliness meets the greatest companion. the rejection meets your greatest acceptance. it all falls away in light of emmanuel--God. with. us. God given for us. all else is chaff, straw in the trough.
Christ be born within me anew again. find your mangers in the dark caves of my heart.
well i usually don't write much with the songs i put up here, usually because i feel like the songs tend to speak for themselves. that or i just want to share a song i'm enjoying lately. i hope some people out there like them. well it's not as if these songs couldn't stand on their own, but i feel a desire right now to just write a little bit more about these in particular.
i'm really loving denison's new album. i feel like it's a bit more musically complex than some of his past, which were very bare. there is still a simplicity to his music, but it is once again mixed with deep and challenging lyrics--and this time a good amount of mystery as well. i'm not trying to write a review though. this first song is one that i just really connect to right now. the second is probably the best on the album and i love its message--great lyrics. hope you enjoy!
yesterday in the mail i received the following catalog: Heifer International. yes you read correctly, the cover says "the most important gift catalog in the world." a) of all, don't ask me how they got my address (probably back when my neighbors the blue team had a pet goat--that damn thing baa'd constantly starting at 5:30am ten feet from my window). b) of second, the perfect holiday gift? i mean, lambs are cute and all but really? i guess i could go with one of the many other options: heifer, goat, pig, rabbit, chick, bees, water buffalo, a holiday tree--or my personal favorite: a llama. c) clearly, this has to be some sort of hilarious joke. quote from the first page, "you decide to donate a sheep in honor of your mother, who has always loved these gentle animals." or later on, "the holidays are right around the corner, and it's time for more pig-themed gifts for your mother."
of course then i looked through the magazine and began to realize that i am a horrible person. of course it's not about buying these animals for yourself, but about sponsoring them for a family in another country. the organization has been around since 1944 and is the winner of the conrad n. hilton humanitarian prize. i don't know what that is but the guy has a middle initial so it must be a big deal.
aside from some pretty cheesy writing, in all reality it might actually be the most important gift-catalog in the world. like best buy or target or even mardel comes anywhere close. can you tell me more important gifts? giving an animal or more to a family or community that creates agricultural development that leads to self-sufficiency in food and income. the magazine is also full of quotes from presidents and celebrities about the good of the organization. and the other cool thing, when the animal has an offspring the family gives it to another family in need, thus spreading the giving. how cool is that?
so you may not have been so lucky and received the catalog for yourself. lucky for you this is the 21st century. still need a christmas gift? check it out.
i'm looking through the book and the table below, past my feet to the gritty sticky floor of the bistro. earbuds muffle the cafe, silencing the crowd playing the soundtrack to the previews of films already told; i'm one who watches movies more than once.
When we look inward and examine our psychological conscience our vision ends in ourselves. We become aware of our feelings, our inward activity, our thoughts, our judgments, and our desires. It is not healthy to be too constantly aware of all these things. Perpetual self-examination gives an overanxious attention to movements that should remain instinctive and unobserved. When we attend too much to ourselves, our activity becomes cramped and stumbling. We get so much in our own way that we soon paralyze ourselves completely and become unable to act like normal human beings.
like any good preview, i don't really know what the movie was all about. why waste more time? sharpen the eyes and press on, for life continues ready or not.
The reality of a person is a deep and hidden thing, buried not only in the invisible recesses of man's own metaphysical secrecy but in the secrecy of God Himself.
"I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone." the latte has gone stale; first cold then spoiled in an attempt to reheat-- believing i could salvage a taste against natural diffusion. as if a neglected gourmet drink could be saved with a zap, making up for lost time.
We too easily assume that we are our real selves, and that our choices are really the ones we want to make when, in fact, our acts of free choice are (though morally imputable, no doubt) largely dictated by psychological compulsions, flowing from our inordinate ideas of our own importance. Our choices are too often dictated by our false selves.
it's clearly not the coffee that's got me gittery. maybe it's the plane ticket i just bought for taize, and the knowledge that it will be something entirely different this time. and that it is not a solution to any of the questions in my life at the moment. and that somehow i realize i have already made this trip about me, fixing me. and i can feel this poem (is that what this is?) slipping away from me with one more line beginning with and.
We are ashamed to be so much aware of ourselves in our prayer. We wish it were not in the way. We wish our love for God were no longer spoiled and clouded by any return upon ourselves.
no. i realize what it is, after two clear glasses of water and a present-tense-poem written hours later. a day at the walters: singing, music, phase 10, video games, chicken-fried steak, prayer for audrey, her smile, their gifts: never leaving empty-handed, and the seemingly last bit of life in my heart right now-- moving to topeka. not gone, but away; just out of reach of possession. which is what started nostalgia in the first place, that second-rate emotion that is the best available. of course it is. dazed still, the preview credits fall-- isn't this when the movie is supposed to start?
Hope deprives us of everything that is not God, in order that all things may serve their true purpose as means to bring us to God.
alright, so here it is. it's gonna be long, but i think very worth it--at the very least for me. so settle in, maybe get a cup of tea, and read away.
a few years back i set out to learn all that i could about love. i know that i've written about this before, ok more than once, but i suppose this is the continuing journey--at least in terms of romantic love. i know i shouldn't put all of my focus there, but it's where my thoughts go right now--more on that later perhaps. so from readings to experience, to more readings now, and hopefully back to experience someday. we'll see.
what has come after these years of reading and loving? well nothing complete of course, but more thoughts and more questions. and failure. and heartbreak. and i guess this post is about trying to make sense of some of those things, maybe tie together a few strings, perhaps hear from those experts of you out there (meaning you married folk--ok others too, you're just not experts).
my first question: is love a want or a need? i have thought that perhaps some of the problem is that far too many of us view love as a need, and therefore something that must be met. if it is simply a strong desire or want, then the power it has over us is much less--at least at the beginning. do we seek love because we need to feel some sort of acceptance or affection? then we are setting ourselves up not only for eventual disappointment (no one can truly meet those needs) but also for a relationship that is ultimately about ourselves. are you loving out of a place of need or want?
cause the thing about that is, it creates a love that is self-serving. or is that even really love? the problem is, i'm beginning to think that all love--at least romantic love, is self-serving. is it possible to have it otherwise? cause i've been learning some things about my own love and how it is just as self-serving. merton helped me out with this one. let me explain a little more.
i once heard someone say, "our deepest need is not be accepted and loved, but to accept and love others." that may be true, at least in terms of love in general--but it's still a need. it's still about you. what you need. "we admit a certain selfishness, and feel that in doing so we are being realistic. our self-denial is, then, just sufficient to provide us with a healthy increase in our mutual satisfactions. In a bourgeois world, Eros knows how to mask as Christian charity" --merton.
further reading merton i was able to see where i feel like i've made my biggest mistake: "[another form of] selfish love whithers and dies unless it is sustained by the attention of the beloved. when we love thus, our friends exist only in order that we may love them. in loving them we seek to make pets of them, to keep them tame. such love fears nothing more than the escape of the beloved. it requires his subjection because that is necessary for the nourishment of our own affections. "selfish love often appears to be unselfish, because it is willing to make any concession to the beloved in order to keep him prisoner. but it is the supreme selfishness to buy what is best in a person, his liberty, his integrity, his own autonomous dignity as a person, at the price of far lesser goods." (i really could quote this entire chapter--and i might in another post actually. it is i think one of the best short descriptions of love i have read).
some of that may be a bit more extreme than i would describe of myself, or at least i like to think i am not that controlling, but the gist of it is something i have fallen into myself. in seeking a love that was so other-focused it became in me a need to have an object for it, thus a source for "the nourishment of [my] own affections."
but is merton talking about eros? is he talking about romantic love? not specifically, but i think it is included, as it is in anything that is about love at all.
this is where good ole buechner chimes in: "you might want to object and say that there are really two different kinds of love...yet i believe that there is a kind of unconscious wisdom in our english use of only one word, love, to describe them both because at their deepest level i believe that they are more nearly one than they are two.... "that is why at the heart of it i believe, eros love is the same as agape love, the love that Jesus means when he says, 'greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' by such love as this, i not only give life to my friend but also find it for myself. agape love works as great a miracle in the heart that gives it as in the heart to which it is given, and to become fully a person i need to sacrifice myself in love no less than my friend needs my sacrifice. in other words, eros, the love that seeks to find, and agape, the love that seeks to give, spring finally, i think, from the same deep impulse of the human heart, which is the impulse to be one with each other and within ourselves and ultimately with God."
maybe love is the joining of mutual need. i don't know. i feel a lot of truth in that quote and those thoughts. but there is also part of me that wants something deeper than that, that wants a love that somehow is not about my own needs. is that possible? i also recently read this: that love is "the selfless promotion of the growth of the other." as long as this remains pure, not becoming selfish in the need to feel that sort of love for oneself (like i did), and is truly selfless, than that is the type of love i want to be able to live. not because deep down i truly need it--though maybe i do. but because i really care more about the other person than i do about myself and the possession of their love. if it is better for them to go away then Lord let me love them thus.
but that is where i have another tension with "love.". can love ever really end? isn't that not in its nature? was it truly love if it dies? and how does it die? the feeling of it may come and go in seasons--especially in a long marriage. but in that it is a commitment and a choice, do we not so often give up on love far too easily? do we accept separation because it is easier? because we too easily live in our own individualism? because it just isn't "right" anymore? because because because. so many reasons. and all about ourselves. these things might have merit in a dating relationship, but they crop up in marriage so often too. i can't even begin to try to process all of that here--that trail must end here for now.
what is it that draws us to one another? attraction. interest. intrigue. ultimately a connection. but that is not enough. and i'm not just talking about having to work at it as well. i'm talking about how we do so much to try to figure out compatibility, what we need in another person, how our personality types go together--there is loads of this stuff all over the internet. as if it all comes down to finding that one person that somehow pushes all the right buttons and avoids the wrong ones and communicates with few hitches. as if we can figure it all out before we really have to commit. i don't doubt this is important--though people change so much throughout life there are some core personality things that are pretty important.
i guess i've always thought it was about the heart though. sure there will be some issues and difficulties--but if i truly trust the person's heart than it will all work out. there is a core of person in their heart that doesn't really change in life, and if you can find that then you have truly found that person. that may be one of the hardest things though, as love so often perhaps blinds our ability to really see that in another. but maybe that is because we are so distracted by the good feelings they are giving us. and if it wasn't so much about us would we be as blinded? probably so still. either way, a deep connection isn't enough though is it? we have our lists, no? and they're all about a person's heart surely.
i suppose underneath all of that, and perhaps all of all of this, is the assumption of what love is. and i think what i'm coming to believe is that love is grace. a grace that we are able to hold it, for there is nothing that truly makes us deserve it from another or be able to earn it. it is forgiving so much in the other person constantly--most of which is probably the many times they are unable to fully love. it is grace in all those little things you wish you had more of from them, all the incompatibilities that somehow can't keep you away, all the ways they hurt you. it is sacrificing fully not in heroism or any other way that makes it romantic and about you, but truly fully for the other person--not for their affection or approval. love is grace. it cannot be without it.
who will afford you the grace to be who you are in all your flaws and failures and love you all the more for it? who will accept your grace and not feel obligated or suspicious?
that is the love, the romance we need. forget being swept off your feet, and start thinking about who you would love to carry. and that your carrying would be a true gift and not a form of control--and that the other would see it that way too. who can hold that loosely in their love? and who can forgive when you do not?
hopefully this has been somehow helpful or informative. and though it is mostly about "romantic" love (or at least so it seems), much of what i have learned of loving others has been informed by learning to love one. also i hope this is not just something to be consumed/read, but really engaged with if you would so choose. truly i am seeking in all of this, and your thoughts would be invaluable to me--however you would choose to share them (even breaking the unspoken rule to talk about blogs outside of the internet, which is a dying and stupid rule anyway). or comments. or email. whatever.
as i seek to grow in my ability to love, and perhaps as you do the same, i must truly remember that no matter how well i love it will not ensure the love of another--and so this is not about control in any way. that would be forgetting grace. but truly to be more of a blessing for others, both now and in the future.
I have found it very important in my own life to let go of my wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of wishes that something really new, something beyond my own expectations, could happen to me.
The sides are slippery with resentment. A floor of muddy anger stills the feet. The stench of betrayal fills the air and stings the eyes. A cloud of self-pity blocks the view of the tiny exit above.
step in and look at the prisoners. victims are chained to the walls. Victims of betrayal. Victims of abuse.
The dungeon, deep and dark, is beckoning you to enter... You can, you know. You've experienced enough hurt...
You can choose, like many, to chain yourself to your hurt... Or you can choose, like some, to put away your hurts before they become hates...
How does God deal with your bitter heart? He reminds you that what you have is more important than what you don't have. You still have your relationship with God. No one else can take that."
- Max Lucado, "He Still Moves Stones"
it really spoke to me. i wanted to write a post about bitterness, because it is something i have really been wrestling with this past week or so. aside from it being maybe too personal (when has that stopped me on this blog?), i didn't write it because i didn't want to walk through it yet. i wanted to stay in that prison. it's an odd thing about bitterness--you know how bad it is for you yet there is something very strangely appealing about it. it is really consuming too.
i wish i would have put away some of my hurts earlier. creating more wounds doesn't help anything. and really looking at your bitterness head on reveals it for the ruse that it is. it usually has a bit of truth in there, but you expand it and cast it into broad generalizations that really aren't reasonable. you know this, but that doesn't change your feeling.
bitterness is just stagnant anger, stemming from hurt. yeah there's the resentment, betrayal, and self-pity too--but i feel like it really is a place you walk into. it is something of a choice often. other times you stumble in. but i don't think you can walk out on your own. you must be carried. pulled out by those who care about you. dragged by the love of others, but mostly the perfect love of Christ. and in the open air, outside of the stagnant prison, you see more clearly.
i am seeing more clearly. i am seeing my own faults and failures. i am seeing with grace again. i am seeing with my true heart once again--the one that is hidden with Christ in love. i do wish i would have put away some of my hurts earlier. but sometimes it just takes that time, and all that comes with that unfortunately.
really what all this comes down to is love, of which i am learning a lot and writing a long post in my head about. so really this is just the setup for that. try to hold your anticipation, because i know the wait will be killing you...
it is not truth that we need today, but healing. truth is fleeting; it rarely will stick for very long. it is important, but not as much as we tend to place on it--we get that from the greeks, not the bible.
i guess maybe we cling to truth because we can find it much easier than love. we can possess it under our control. or so we think. love is much more elusive. or at least it is as we so often look for it.
how easily we forget that Christ's love cannot be separated from us. his is the love we truly need. it is always there, right before us, in any instant. we need only to access it, to accept it, to receive that wholesome love. let your heart be flooded by his love, by his blood that cleanses, that washes out bitterness and anger and hurt.
Lord help me to remember it now every day, as i will need it at least that often.
christmas season is my favorite time of year--i guess it technically isn't a season so it doesn't surpass fall, but it is my favorite month-long time of the year by far. i love the anticipation of the season, all looking forward to that great day of arrival, of God coming to be with us, of emmanuel. i love the lights. i love the cold. i love the music (well, some of it). but most of all it is the spiritual side of it, the joy of the greatest gift that humanity has ever received.
but this year i just don't have that excitement. life does not feel like a gift, and God's presence does not seem like cause for celebration and glad tidings. there is a loss, a lack in me now that quiets the carols and mutes the bells. there is a sting that cuts at the heart and seeps bitterness, flooding the seeds of joy and hope. because isn't that what christmas is about? hope? the hope that a savior has come to rescue us from...from what exactly again? from the cruelties of this world? from death? from slavery to sin? from pain? from struggle? i've heard all of those but they're not all right.
i think often with christmas we forget that the coming of jesus wasn't just about laying down his sweet head. or do we forget that the wise-men's gifts were burial spices? his coming meant his death for us. and it meant the coming of all of our deaths--sure our resurrection too, but death first. it meant the coming of the need to take up our cross daily. the coming of our exile into being aliens and strangers in this world.
what it comes down to is how you respond to the arrival of Christ in your own life. there will be great joy and great freedom, but in time there will also be great pain and much loss. it is the path of the disciple. it might be a long time before Jesus brings you there, but we all must drink his cup. there is no getting around it. not if we want to follow him.
so do you want to follow? i know i haven't made it sound the most appealing, and i perhaps like matthew am given a moment to hesitate. see caravaggio tell it: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68.
do we welcome the Lord into our lives only when he is coming in joy and peace and comfort? or do we celebrate the coming of the new born king? a king that we subject ourselves to--that goes against our idea of freedom and always choosing/getting what we want, doing what we want to do. a king who can take anything from us at any moment, because it is not really ours but his. a king who will send us this way or that to accomplish his purposes. if you're going to be that kind of subject, you better very deeply believe that he is good. and that you are not like any other normal citizen, but that you are a beloved son or daughter. you will not be sent out needlessly or carelessly into the fray. but you will be sent out.
peace on earth goodwill toward men - "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matt. 10:34
oh tidings of comfort and joy - "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
o come o come emmanuel - these are the lyrics to my favorite christmas song. and they are the words that i need to reach my heart...
thanksgiving is a strange holiday. somehow it has become about watching football and gorging ourselves and then laying around lazily. damn tryptophan. somehow it celebrates our unity with the indians and how they gave to us, conveniently forgetting what we later gave them in return. somehow it has become a party to celebrate all that we have while the rest of the world struggles to just get by, while so many don't have anything or even food for the day. we throw ourselves a big party and revel in our consumption that is entirely unhealthy and selfish. yet it's ok because we feel good about it because we're thankful for it. that makes it a good thing then of course.
thanksgiving is a strange holiday. it, perhaps you might think, would be the most impervious to commercialization and americanization--which might be a strange thing to say since it is a distinctly american holiday. what i mean by that is that somehow we make every holiday all about us. ok maybe not entirely, but at least to some extent. and you would think that this would be hard to do to a holiday that has "thanks" in its name. we have found a way.
what is it that we are thankful for? often it is quite good things, like family or friends or the little blessings in our lives. sometimes it is also about our possessions or the things that we own that give us pleasure. either way, and any way, our thankfulness is always connected to our possession, to our having. there is something wrong with this.
why are we only thankful for the things that we have? what if having is not always the best thing? implicit in our thanks of all our many blessings is the idea that it is better to have all of these things in our lives and around us. but statistically speaking, most people who live in third world countries with far less are just as happy as americans if not more. so much for best buy's new slogan "live happier." we all somehow intuitively know that having more does not mean that life will be better, but we don't live or shop that way. what if it is better to be without something? can we be thankful for that?
what about those who do not have? and i'm not just talking about possessions. we can be thankful for our parents, but what about those who have lost their parents? we can be thankful for our friends, but what about those who have lost their friends? that is not to say that we shouldn't be thankful, but we would do well to remember that for all we have there are many who do not--and the history of america is laden with us giving thanks for things that we have taken at the expense of others, from the native americans right on down to the cheap goods we get at the exploitation of third-world countries. i don't say that to induce guilt, though maybe that wouldn't actually be such a bad thing every now and then, but rather just to be conscious.
i guess i am thinking this way because of seeing the things that i do not have. sure there is so much that i do have that i am thankful for, but man is it easy to focus on the few have-nots. and i suppose it's more the losses than that which i am without. which makes me think about all those others who hold losses in their lives. and we can look at this day, thanksgiving, as a time to set all those things aside and be grateful for all we do have--which of course we should do, but also as a time to learn to become thankful even for what we do not have or what we have lost. i'm so not there yet, but i want to be.
there is some loss that we can be thankful for ultimately because of how it creates space for something better to come in for which we will be more thankful. this is like a future-oriented thankfulness and still based on having. or we can be thankful for what we did have and what it gave us before whatever was lost--another having just based in the past. but there is other loss that cannot be replaced or made-up. can we be thankful for that too? even when we can find no judgment of our own to give a thing value--for isn't that based on us getting something out of the deal ultimately?
why is it all about us? can we be thankful for giving? is that not truly the better way? can we be thankful that we don't have something because we have given it away? and not because it made us feel better. can we be thankful that we don't have something, because perhaps it would take too much from us if we were "blessed" with it? can we be thankful for our lack of abundance? i guess that's harder to do when there is so little that we lack. but that is my challenge to myself (and you too i guess), to give thanks not just for what i've been given, but also for what has been taken from me and what i've given away. if for nothing else than to release my judgment on God and life and to identify with the poor in spirit--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
this is the title of a stanley hauerwas book that i really want to read, any of you want to join me? perhaps i should ask rather at the end of this post. i have been exposed to it through a book i'm reading now that is quite good, though very challenging. and as i read over this section i can't help but now put these quotes up. please note that in these quotes the term "liberalism" is not referring to left-wing politics, but rather a whole social and political system. and now the quotes:
The churches of America, whether conservative or liberal, are divided in their loyalty; divided between allegiance to American liberal democracy and society on the one hand and to the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ on the other. When it comes to the decisive moments--the apocalyptic revelatory moments, when America goes to war in the name of "freedom," "justice," and "democracy"--the latter loyalty almost always takes second place to the former. What Hauerwas "hates" is idolatry. American liberal democracy is the One Great Thing for which most American Christians are prepared to make the costliest sacrifice: the lives of their own and others' children. Such human sacrifices declare final--apocalyptic allegiances.
Hauerwas reveals the totalizing way in which liberalism persistently attacks and dissolves the political significance of all particular social groups and historical traditions that might stand between the individual and the state, by recognizing the individual alone as the only important political unit of liberal society. Particular groups and traditions "are now understood only as those arbitrary institutions sustained by the private desires of individuals." There is in America, argues Hauerwas, as much a "monism" of political existence as in the Soviet system. "Though it is less immediately coercive than that of the Soviet Union, it is the monism of the freedom of the individual." The freedom of religion in America is guarded only insofar as particular religious traditions, including the Christian churches, do not promote themselves as particular political alternatives, but rather provide religious support for and promotion of the wider liberal political regime. We should not be led to believe, then, "that democratic societies and states by being democratic are any less omnivorous in their appetites for our loyalties than non-democratic states. Indeed, exactly because we assume that democracies protect our freedoms as Christians we may well miss the ways the democratic state remains a state that continues to wear the head of the beast. For example, democratic societies and states, no less than totalitarian ones, reserve the right to command our conscience to take up arms and kill not only other human beings but other Christians in the name of the relative moral goods."
If American liberalism can get gospel and church to serve its cause, then it will have triumphed in its "imperial demands"; it will have consumed gospel and church with its "omnivorous appetite." And all of this happens precisely in the place where the church in America believes it will be saved: separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Implicit in each of these phrases is the prior conviction that religion is in the first place a "matter of the heart," an inner, private event of the experience of the sublime, which may serve the emotional or spiritual well-being of the individual but has no intrinsic social or political character. Indeed, even the church is understood not primarily, appropriately, and necessarily as a socio-political body, but only secondarily, intrusively, and accidentally so, since its primary purpose is thought to be encouraging and nurturing the "interior dimension" of human life. On this understanding, while the church may be given the freedom to "touch the soul" of the "believer" (if one chooses to believe), America as a society, economy, polity, and nation nevertheless makes an absolute claim on--seizes--the bodies and therefore the public actions of its subjects. But this way of "saving" religion by securing a safe but innocuous place for it is at the very same time the way of killing the church.
America and American liberal democracy is wrong because it directly and powerfully makes an imperial claim on its subjects which is precisely counter in scope and substance to the claim which the risen Jesus Christ makes on humanity through the proclamation of his crucifixion and the creation of the church in the power of the Holy Spirit.
(quotation marked sections are hauerwas, others are harink in summary)
now before you go thinking that hauerwas or harink is advocating constantinianism see this one more quote from one of john howard yoder's books, christian difference:
"Christendom may in fact be a vision of shalom, and our argument with Constantinians is not over the vision so much as the sinful effort to grasp at its fulness through violence, before its eschatological time. Hauerwas is quite consistent once you see that he does want to create a Christian society (polis, societas)--a community and way of life shaped fully by Christian convictions. He rejects Constantinianism because "the world" cannot be this society, and we only distract ourselves from building a truly Christian society by trying to make our nation into that society, rather than be content with living as a community-in-exile."
these are not easy thoughts and challenges, and i suspect that some of you might heartily disagree with them. at the very least they are challenging, and it is good to read things that you disagree with (see previous post :)). these are not ideas that should be taken lightly in any event, as american citizens or american christians. or is it christian americans? i forget which comes first.
(those of you who read the last post, i know what you're thinking...you're thinking, "am i old enough to not miss the brackets now???" i'm wondering the same thing.)
i'm undertaking the task of reading the lord of the rings, which is definitely an investment. it is not the quickest reading nor is it russian, which makes it naturally harder for me to understand. i have greatly enjoyed the movies and recently God has been speaking to me through images from the movie, several times in fact.
so, since it is a bit of an investment i thought, why keep it all just to myself? i hope you enjoy reading a few quotes as i go through this and echo what has spoken to me. "They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire. They were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember it."
and no that quote doesn't speak to me about america the great. ----------------------------------------------------------------- "The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions." ----------------------------------------------------------------- "'But where shall I find courage?' asked Frodo. 'That is what I chiefly need.' 'Courage is found in unlikely places,' said Gildor. 'Be of good hope!'" ----------------------------------------------------------------- Sam: "I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want--I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me."
so this weekend was the family reunion in florida at a place called the villages, only the largest retirement community in the country--it is its own city with 80,000 senior citizens. i wish i had the cord to my camera so that i could put up pictures of all the pimped out golf carts down there. you think i'm kidding? my favorite were the jaguar cart and the hummer cart. maybe i'll put pictures up later. it was quite a place. 280 holes of golf, maybe 5 people under the age of 30, rampant problems with alcoholism and stds (yeah gross, i know). all i know is that this crazy western idea of "retirement" where you go off and play golf and do nothing else is really weird in so many ways. and i even like golf.
but the weekend wasn't really about the place really, odd as it is. no, there were several hilarious things about this weekend, as i expected with my volatile italian/irish family getting together. let me give you a few stories:
~ i took more crap this weekend for my beard than what is just decent. i knew i was going to be looked on as the family bum, but didn't realize that it would be one of the main topics of conversation all the time. it's like, there is a lull in the conversation, hey, there's luke's beard, let's rag on that again! at least it got me lots of attention, which i just love.
~ apparently though, the beard did not scare away the kids, as i was the official kid magnet of the weekend. it was my second cousins mostly. they flocked to me. probably because i was the only one that would give them any real attention. three healy kids living with their single mother--i felt connected. i hope a little male attention was good for them. they were adorable and i was reminded how much i love kids. i want some. but i guess for that i probably need a wife first...and that requires a woman...and that requires a loss of sanity...damn, tough spot.
~ best story of the weekend: my cousin lance, who is about 40 now, is just hilarious. now one of the things about a reunion like this is that inevitably all the younger generation talks about how crazy and weird the older generation is, and we're able to relate on how oddly similar many of our experiences were growing up. my dad isn't quite too similar to my uncle in a lot of ways, so know that going into this story.
anyway, so lance decides to tell a story about his dad and his parenting methods. this is called "the brackets of life" story. when lance was about 14 his dad found some pot in his room. so the next day his dad takes him out to lunch and sits him down to talk. and lance is thinking, oh you just try to tell me anything because lance knew that his dad continued to do more than his fair share of lighting up the grass. as they're sitting there, his dad takes the cocktail napkin and draws a set of brackets on them. "son" he said, "these are the brackets of life. and the goal, is to get inside these brackets. now you're way down here," and he pointed to the bottom of the napkin. "if you start going off and doing all these things that will take you off course, you're going to veer off to the side and miss the brackets." his dad paused to look for understanding. lance nodded. "you see," his dad continued, "if you start these things a little later in life" as his hand pointed higher up the napkin, "you might veer off a little but you are still going to make it inside the brackets."
thus, the parenting theory of how it is ok to do anything as long as you don't start too early.
i could tell more stories but i won't keep you any longer. instead, enjoy this wonderful commercial for where i spent my weekend. don't let the song get stuck in your head....
i spent three hours this morning/afternoon discussing/debating with four other guys in a continuation of an online discussion over a facebook note. it was connected to politics, abortion, scripture, american christianity, emergent church, and things of that sort. it was hopefully in some way helpful. it was utterly exhausting. i think there probably wasn't a lot of change brought about from the whole thing.
i spent two hours the last two nights in the den of satan/aggieville celebrating/carousing for my friend's birthday, having a few drinks, talking with lots of friends, joking, laughing, having a good time. we smoked cigars. maybe there were a few vices, but then again maybe they weren't what that time was about. i lost some sleep but i don't mind at all (even as i'm staying up to write this post and have a very early flight in the morning). i think these nights meant a lot to a few people. and i think in some way for me too.
i spent seven hours last friday night in a trailer park playing risk with a group of guys. we ate pizza and candy and joked around and i dominated the world. twice. i am getting to know a family i never would have met if i didn't get out of a stinking church building (or house) and knock on a few doors. and they are beautiful in a very broken way. before i hang out with them sometimes i feel worn out/attacked, but while i am with them my heart is alive. i think there is a lot of change happening here.
so which of these things is the most "christian"? i'll let you be the judge. and you should also read this, which also speaks to part of the heart behind this post.
i want to talk a bit more about audrey though. audrey is the little girl who lives at the trailer park. she is 5 and the sweetest child you're likely to meet. she has the most giving heart of i think anyone i've ever met. you walk in the door and she has something in her hand ready to give you, even if it's just bubbles because to her that is just as good a gift as anything else. one night she gave away over half of her halloween candy to my roommate tyler. they were sitting at the table and she just kept pulling out more and more and giving it to him. when he tried to say no she would open up the package and hand him the candy right there. and of course, it had been opened so he couldn't just let it go to waste.
the other day when we got there she came up to me and tyler with a single cheez-it in each hand and gave them to us. one cheez-it. i ate it smiling, thinking about how much i love cheez-its but how it could have been a stick of broccoli and i would have loved it. her grandma says that whenever audrey gets any money she just gives it away to a friend or in the offering at church. all of it.
for some reason, and i suspect because of little audrey, i have been in just an absolute giving mood recently. i am just overjoyed to give so much away. it is not a natural gift of mine and it is usually difficult for me. but i was encouraged and challenged by a 5 year-old girl to realize that what is mine is not, and the smile on her face anytime she gives something away is enough to make scrooge take sleeping pills (i.e. no need for the three ghosts, get it? yeah? uh huh?).
audrey has some form of kidney disease, and so her muscles retain a lot of water and she has lots of complications and sickness in her life because of it. this makes her a bigger girl in an odd sort of way, which leads to teasing at school. every so often she gets treatments down in wichita and much is drained from her body--after which i guess she looks completely different. my heart aches for this little girl i barely know. i love her and i am torn up to see her have to endure so much (not to mention all the family stuff), and still live so free and giving and loving and joyful and innocent. i am praying that the power of God would be present sometime soon for healing for audrey. and right now i think there is very little in life that would bring me more joy than to see that happen.
well i better try to get some sleep. hope you all have a great weekend in the cold :). i also hope you didn't miss the second song of the two i posted last, cause it's my favorite right now--in a weird way. you gotta hear all the lyrics. oh and props to zach last night--way to be a man! alright and i'm out. and by out i mean off to florida for the weekend...in a mere 4 hours. family reunion!
I. Arms stretched out across the field, The long shadows topple to the earth. The commander is hours from victory But darkness calls sooner, And no staff can hold up that sun.
II. A Deal in the back alley, money exchanged for the price of love. We try to be discreet but a trench coat can’t hide Cupid’s wings. Later the arrow pierces a heart a shot of love who knew that it could be fatal.
III. Chubby fingers stretch and reach the rim. Eyes shimmer as the prize is pulled— a cookie. And then it’s gone with the semi-sweet consolation, “you’ll spoil your dinner”
IV. held so tightly it fell through the fingers of a clenched fist. then the cramped hand opened and life flowed again, flowering a pale hand.
i'm 25. yes folks, that's kind of old. i suppose not in the grand scheme of things, but then today i found out that tyler thigpen is 24 (he's the chief's quarterback). i was also recently reading an article in sojourners magazine about all these 20-somethings who are doing some of the coolest stuff. i would list a few but the magazine is out in my car and it's cold and dark out there. see, what am i going to accomplish? i won't even go out to my car for this.
a friend of mine recently told me that he felt like God was asking him, "what are you made of?" and thinking about it i'm glad God was asking him and not me. because i don't know about me. i don't know what i'm made of. i think about how i have handled some of the hard times in my life, or about all the things that i continually fail to accomplish every day. there's a nice list on my desk that's been there way too long.
i don't want my life to be about crossing off lists. sometimes i'm ok with not knowing really where my life is headed, who i'll be headed there with, or what i'll be doing along the way. sometimes. but then other times i feel like i'm getting a little too old for that. or that no one really wants to attach themselves to a wanderer. well, maybe that's too strong of a word--but that security thing, people like that i am told.
i feel like a lot of life is about watching the pieces of it fall away one way or another. and even if we were to try to pick back up the ones we could, the sum of those parts cannot equal the whole from before. we can hold on to some of those parts a little better than we often do--but we also must be free to look for the new things that can recreate our lives constantly. i think that's where i have trouble, letting my life become something new. but i'm getting better. maybe. i think...
maybe i need to think outside the fox. yes, the fox--that crafty little devil. like there being something new and grand far beyond anything i have around me now--that life is waiting to unfold in some far off distant land with great adventure and new opportunities. but i feel like i don't have the energy for that, for starting all over. but if that's what i'm supposed to do...
at the moment it's not. and thinking that or reaching for that is an attempt to reclaim a life that is being crucified, a life that is being taken from me, a life i am trying to lose. i guess at this point that includes future direction, plans, and some companionship. i am thankful for who and what i do have now though--especially my wonderful friends.
so one moment at a time, another look at the list and a sigh knowing that's not what my life is about. it's about following God in faith. and faith and sight aren't always the best of friends. and it's about these questions from nouwen lately:
"Can my hope in God grow deeper and stronger even when my many wishes remain unfulfilled?"
"Do I fully trust that with God at my side, I will find my true home?"
"Are the churches we are a part of seeing transformation?"
"At best, institutions are the remains of our stories and embody the values necessary to engage the world. At worst, they confuse methodology with value. Regardless, there is no sustainability or future without the multiplication of churches. The highest demonstration of maturity for a local church is when it multiplies. Only something alive can reproduce, and it will do so only if it is healthy."